Here at my Bedford, New York farm, we’re expecting snow and rain this week, with temperatures in the 30s. My outdoor garden beds are all cleared for the winter, but fresh, delicious vegetables are growing beautifully indoors – in a special greenhouse I had constructed several years ago that was inspired by Eliot Coleman, an expert in four-season farming.
My head gardener, Ryan McCallister, does an excellent job with succession planting. Last week, he planted more lettuce, cucumbers and carrots. I’m always so happy to share the bounties with my family and friends.
Enjoy these photos.
This time of year, it’s nice to go inside my vegetable greenhouse to see what’s thriving. This structure is located near my Equipment Barn. It uses minimal artificial heat, where many cold hardy crops and other greens can be grown and harvested through the winter. Some beds look more full than others because they are planted at different times as part of succession planting.
Most of the energy in the greenhouse comes from the sun through these giant windows, which can be programmed to open for ventilation or cooling when needed.
Inside the head house, we keep a number of favorite seeds. I am always on the lookout for different seeds when I travel, but seeds are also widely available online and at garden centers. Ryan keeps track of what seeds do well at the farm – indoors and out.
Here’s our bed of parsley. Parsley is a flowering plant native to the Mediterranean. It derives its name from the Greek word meaning “rock celery.” It is a biennial plant that will return to the garden year after year once it is established. We have both curly parsley…
… and flat-leaf parsley. In general, flat-leaf parsley has a more robust flavor, while the curly variety is popularly used as a garnish.
Green onions only take 50 to 60 days to grow from seed to a harvestable size. They’re also easy to grow in any amount of space.
The radish is an edible root vegetable of the Brassicaceae family. Radishes are grown and consumed throughout the world, and mostly eaten raw as a crunchy salad vegetable.
In this bed are the beets. Beets are sweet and tender – and one of the healthiest foods. Beets contain a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains, which provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support.
Both the root and the leaves of the turnip are edible. Turnips are smooth flat-round and white vegetables that mature early and are best harvested young – when they are up to two inches in diameter. The flavor is sweet and fruity, and the texture is crisp and tender. When harvesting, we always gently remove the surrounding earth first to see if the vegetables are big enough. If not, we push the soil back into place.
Other vegetables growing in this greenhouse include the Swiss chard. Swiss chard colors are so vibrant with stems of white, red, yellow, rose, and gold.
Chard has very nutritious leaves making it a popular addition to healthful diets.
The gorgeous Swiss chard stalks stand out in the bed. The most common method for picking is to cut off the outer leaves about two inches above the ground while they are young, tender, and about eight to 12 inches long.
I also grow a lot of spinach. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron and vitamin B2. We use a lot of spinach at the farm for my daily green juice.
Ryan started several trays of lettuce inside the main greenhouse. These seedlings are now ready to be planted in the beds.
This tool is great for transplanting seedlings – it’s also from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. It’s called a widger. It has a convex stainless steel blade that delicately separates the tiny plants.
Ryan carefully loosens the soil around the seedling with the widger and lifts the seedling out of the tray cell. The widger also helps to avoid damage to the plant’s leaves and roots.
And then he plants it into the ground. Lettuce plants have shallow roots, so they don’t require much depth to grow, but because of their full heads, they need to be planted at least a foot apart.
I love fresh lettuce. It’s a real treat to have lettuce like this all year long. I share it with my daughter and grandchildren. And of course, I enjoy it for my own lunches and dinners when I am home.
There is always a lettuce head or two ready for harvesting. Butter lettuce is a type of lettuce that includes Bibb lettuce and Boston lettuce. It’s known for loose, round-shaped heads of tender, sweet leaves and a mild flavor.
Ryan also planted some cucumber and carrot seeds. For seeds, the furrows don’t have to be deep. In general, seeds should be planted at a depth of two times the width, or diameter, of the seed. A seed that’s about 1/16-of-an-inch thick should be planted an eighth-of-an-inch deep. Ryan drops the seeds about two inches apart.
Finally, all the beds are watered and weeded. It won’t be long before we start working on the outdoor beds, but for now, I am so fortunate to have this greenhouse where I can harvest flavorful and healthy produce all winter long.